A civilization’s traditions, culture and customs are its founding stones. And these stones are bound and cemented together with the help of art, music, dance and various other forms of art and craft that exude the most creative and awe inspiring characteristics of society. One such form of art is ‘Aipan’, which hails from the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, India. Once an integral facet of the rich and dynamic cultural history of Kumaon, this immensely intricate art form’s significance is gradually decreasing.
‘Aipan’ is derivative of the Sanskrit word ‘Arpan,’ which means ‘to pigment.’ True to the very essence of the word, Aipan art is used to fill colours in routine and celebrate the multihued facets of life. Auspicious in its bearing and traditionally made using a red coloured ochre and rice paste with the last three fingers of the hand, this art form adorns the walls and floors of various households in Kumaon. It has been passed on for generations now, by mothers to their daughters, as an act of pure love and affection—for both their daughters and their culture.
The art comprises lines, dots, and various geometric and rhythmic patterns. Every element and motif has special meaning.
The depiction of the several Hindu deities, representation of Goddess Lakshmi, motifs inspired by the village life, streams and rivers, and the protective Mountain Gods—everything tells a story, limns the rich cultural heritage.
Over the years, the practice of this art has declined substantially which is why at present, it is left with almost nobody to carry forward the legacy. Many from Kumaon have migrated to cities in search of livelihoods; the dictates of modern life leave little time to appreciate and indulge in making Aipan art.
Moreover, markets now make available Aipan stickers the traditional motifs drawn on ready to use stickers which, though more convenient to Kumaoni people today, can never replace the hand drawn Aipan art in its essence. The percolation of factual and practical knowledge of Aipan art has also dwindled among the Kumaoni community. The awareness about a craft which once used to be passed onto generations of Kumaoni women by their elders, as not only a custom but also as a symbol of wisdom and affection, has deteriorated to such an extent that the art form is now heart-breakingly drawing its last breath.
Aipan art is traditionally drawn on floors and walls of the home, however, there lies a huge opportunity in tapping into the commercial viability of this art, by adapting it to different surfaces.
In an effort to revive this art form to its former glory, Project Aipan has been launched by the members of Enactus, IPCW, to resuscitate the art form and empower a community of Kumaoni housewives through entrepreneurial action. Under Project Aipan, beautiful Aipan motifs have been adapted on canvases, bookmarks, greeting cards, diaries, folders, and other items of stationery. All products are handpainted by the project beneficiaries.
The aim of Project Aipan is to revive Aipan and to make people aware of it, so that this beautiful art form does not become part of only our history and archives, and an important part of India’s heritage and culture can be saved from becoming extinct.
The project requests your support in bringing about a revolutionary movement in the history of Indian art. Owning an Aipan product might bring you good luck, for it considered auspicious; It will definitely bring big smiles to the artists’ faces.
Let’s appreciate the art forms India has to offer and give the recognition to Aipan art that it deserves.